SAN FRANCISCO—The city of San Francisco announced the launch of the Street Overdose Response Team (SORT) to combat opioid-related deaths. The San Francisco Fire Department responds to dozens of overdoses each day, some which end in death.

The response team consists of community paramedics and San Francisco Department of Public Health clinicians. Follow up teams include substance use navigators, nurse practitioners, social workers, and case managers. In upcoming phases, pure support specialists with experience in substance use disorder, and homelessness themselves will be added to SORT.

“We are uniquely positioned to lead the initial response, identification, and engagement of people who have survived a non-fatal overdose. By working together with our partners and the Department of Public Health, community-based organizations, and most importantly, people with substance abuse and opioid use disorder themselves, we know that tomorrow can be different,” said Rescue Captain Michael Mason of the SFFD.

According to Captain Mason of the SFFD in a media release, EMTs respond to dozens of overdoses every day, many of which end tragically despite life-saving efforts. In 2020, over 700 people died of drug related overdoses involving opioids such as fentanyl.

The fire department’s EMS came in contact with approximately half of the individuals who overdosed prior to their deaths. As a community paramedic for SORT, Captain Mason can immediately offer shelter to people experiencing an overdose in partnership with San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to prevent an overdose from happening.

“The Street Overdose Response Team starts today, they’ll proactively engage people who have survived an overdose or are at risk, enter them into care coordination & treatment under Mental Health SF. No one should overdose & immediately be released w/o intervention,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisor Matt Haney via a Twitter post.

Nurse Practitioner Kevin Lagor advised that the public can be involved by spreading the word about SORT. For anyone with family members struggling with overdose or addiction, Lagor advises coming to them from a place of understanding.